Mistrial declared in case against Backpage.com founders
PHOENIX, AZ – A federal judge on Tuesday declared a mistrial in the case involving prostitution and money laundering charges against founders of the classified site Backpage.com, noting that none of the defendants have been charged with child sex trafficking, despite it being mentioned several times by prosecutors during the trial.
Judge Susan Brnovich for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona said that repeated references to child sex trafficking by both prosecutors and witnesses brought by the government “is something that I can’t overlook and will not overlook,” according to The Associated Press.
Brnovich had said before the start of the trial that while she would permit evidence indicating that individuals were trafficked on the website, prosecutors could not focus on specific details of alleged abuse.
“It seemed the government abused that leeway,” she said, adding that lingering on details of abuse brings a “whole new emotional response from people,” potentially impacting the integrity of the trial.
Former Backpage.com owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, as well as four other company employees, have been accused by federal prosecutors of intentionally selling ads for sex on the website.
While prosecutors have said that many of the victims of the alleged sex trafficking were children, child sex trafficking is not among the charges facing the former employees.
All six of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution, and four of them, including Lacey and Larkin, have also pleaded not guilty to money laundering.
Prosecutors have argued that Backpage generated roughly $500 million from the alleged prostitution scheme between the time it was first launched in 2004 and when it was shut down by the federal government in 2018, according to the AP.
Lacey and Larkin, who founded the Phoenix New Times and held ownerships in other weekly news outlets, have maintained that they did not allow ads for sex, and claimed that they attempted to use various tools to remove the allegedly unauthorized ads that appeared on their site.
The news agency reported that Brnovich has set a new trial date for Oct. 5.
In April 2018, Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges in Texas, and then-CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in California.
Months later, Dan Hyer, the sales director for the website, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, admitting that he was involved in a scheme to give free advertising to sex workers in an attempt to keep them away from competitor platforms.
Education Official in N.Y. Is Accused of
Facilitating Child Sex Abuse
A high-ranking official in New York City’s Department of Education was arrested on Sunday in Wisconsin and accused of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, according to police officials there.
David A. Hay, the deputy chief of staff to schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza, was taken into custody at an airport in Milwaukee following an ongoing undercover investigation, said Officer Stuart Zuehls, a spokesman for the Neenah, Wis., police department.
Authorities in Wisconsin notified New York City officials hours after the arrest.
The Department of Education said it fired Mr. Hay after the arrest.
“These allegations are incredibly disturbing and absolutely unacceptable,” Miranda Barbot, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a statement. “We took immediate action removing Mr. Hay from payroll and are terminating him. We referred this to the Special Commissioner of Investigation and we will fully comply with any investigation.”
Mr. Hay, 39, did not regularly interact with students as part of his job, which was based at department headquarters in downtown Manhattan. Before moving to New York, however, Mr. Hay was a school principal in two Wisconsin school districts.
Officer Zuehls declined to offer more information about the charges or why Mr. Hay was arrested at an airport.
Under Wisconsin state law, someone who is accused of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime is defined as a person who “uses a computerized communication system to communicate with an individual who the actor believes or has reason to believe has not attained the age of 16 years with intent to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with the individual.”
It is not yet clear when the investigation into Mr. Hay was launched, or whether Mr. Hay has obtained a lawyer.
The investigation was conducted by the Neenah police department, with help from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, though it is not yet clear what precise role the Milwaukee police played.
The investigation is ongoing, and there is no information yet about when Mr. Hay will be arraigned.
Mr. Hay grew up in the small town of Antigo, Wis., about three hours from Milwaukee, according to a 2017 interview.
Mr. Hay has served under both of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s schools chancellors: Mr. Carranza, who was appointed in the spring of 2018, and former chancellor Carmen Fariña.
He rose quickly in the Department of Education after joining in May 2016, first serving as a special assistant to Ms. Fariña while he was still a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, then helping oversee major programs — including the Renewal School initiative to help struggling schools — before being promoted to a deputy chief of staff last October, according to his page on LinkedIn.
He maintains an active Twitter account where he promotes Department of Education events and positive news stories about the department.
He spoke about his work at the Department of Education in a 2017 news item for the Harvard Graduate School of Education School’s website.
“To jump to the largest school system on the planet is incredible,” he said. “It’s humbling, challenging, and really promising.”
New Zealand tycoon Sir Ron Brierley
arrested over Child Abuse material
IT IS A GOOD TIME… to stop the lies, coverups, witch hunts, and Law Makers that could care less what WE THE PEOPLE think or want. Drain the swamp, stop Our Law Enforcement Agencies willfully breaking Our Laws while covering crimes up of the rich and shameless.
One set of Laws for everyone, One Justice System For Everyone.
Brierley caught with ‘large amounts’ of child abuse material, say police after arrest at Sydney airport
New Zealand businessman Sir Ron Brierley has been charged after allegedly being found in possession of child abuse material, New South Wales police have said.
In August, Sydney detectives began an investigation into the possession of child abuse material in the local area, and “following extensive inquiries”, 82-year-old Brierley was stopped at Sydney international airport at 6.30am on Tuesday by Australian Border Force officials.
NSW police said in a statement: “The man’s carry-on luggage was searched before the contents of his laptop and electronic storage devices were reviewed, which are alleged to have contained large amounts of child abuse material.”
The man, from Point Piper, was taken to Mascot police station and charged with six counts of possessing child abuse material, police said.
Brierley has been granted conditional bail and is scheduled to appear at Downing Centre local court on 10 February 2020.
The tycoon retired from his final boardroom role in June this year at the age of 81 following a career as a corporate raider that stretched back to the 1960s. He was made a knight in 1988, for services to business management and the community.
He founded his first major enterprise, Brierley Investments, in New Zealand in 1961 using money raised from a stock tips newsletter he ran.
In the 1980s, his attention turned to Australia.
Over the following decades his corporate vehicles – Industrial Equity Limited and Guiness Peat Group – launched a series of attacks on some of Australia’s best-known companies, including brewer Carlton & United and lotteries group Tatts.
His aggressive shareholder activism towards boards, which frequently involved public attacks on under-performing directors, shook up what had been a relatively genteel and clubby business community.
New Zealand police refused to comment on whether they had played a role in the investigation.
18-month-old nephew of suspect’s girlfriend was found in landfill
DALLAS, TX – The man who confessed to police in July that he left a Dallas toddler in a dumpster now faces a murder charge in the boy’s death.
A grand jury indicted Sedrick Johnson in September on a capital murder charge in the death of Cedrick Jackson, the 18-month-old nephew of Johnson’s girlfriend.
Johnson has been in the Dallas County Jail since he was arrested in July. His bail is set at $1,003,000.
Cedrick’s disappearance July 10 triggered an Amber Alert before authorities found the boy’s remains the next day at a landfill on the boundary between Garland and Rowlett.
Johnson, the boyfriend of Cedrick’s aunt, confessed to police that he had put the toddler in a dumpster in northeast Dallas. Cedrick had been in his aunt’s care at that time, police had said previously.
Johnson told police that Cedrick had been swaddled in a blanket on the floor before he died, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. He told police Cedrick had once “made a mess” with ketchup packets, so he began swaddling the 18-month-old tightly to prohibit his movement.
He told police he unwrapped Cedrick from the blanket after he heard him making noise around 12:30 a.m. The child began vomiting and became unresponsive, Johnson told police.
Johnson told police he gave Cedrick CPR for more than 30 minutes and that the child wasn’t moving but still had a heartbeat, according to the affidavit. After that, he drove to a dumpster and put Cedrick inside, he told police.
The capital murder indictment for Johnson says he intentionally caused the toddler’s death by “an unknown manner and means.” Johnson also was indicted on the injury to a child charge in September.
Johnson’s girlfriend, Chrystal Jackson, faces a charge of endangering a child in Cedrick’s death and disappearance.
In an arrest-warrant affidavit, police said Jackson lied to police for 19 hours about the amount of time she knew Cedrick was missing.
“Were it not for the actions and omissions by Suspect Jackson, law enforcement has every reason to believe the complainant could have been located, potentially alive, within hours of his removal from Suspect Jackson’s residence,” police wrote in the affidavit.
Jackson had called 911 early the morning of July 10, telling a dispatcher that her nephew had been abducted. She said only she, another child and Cedrick were home when a man entered the residence and took Cedrick, according to the warrant.
Police said Jackson repeatedly changed her story about when Cedrick went missing, according to the affidavit.
Police said she also sent “valuable witnesses” away from the location from which Cedrick went missing, referring to five other children who had been in the house at the time.
In forensic interviews, children in the home said they heard Cedrick crying in the early morning, and then “he stopped suddenly and disappeared,” police wrote in an affidavit.
Cedrick’s mother could not be reached for comment Monday. A few days after Johnson’s indictment, she wrote on Facebook that the boy’s aunt deserved the same charge as Johnson.
“You’re telling me this woman lied to y’all for over 19 hours when y’all could have possibly found my baby alive and the highest charge you can give her is child endangerment and her boyfriend gets capital murder,” DiShundra Thomas wrote.
Thomas said she wanted “proper and deserving justice” for her son.
Jackson, the aunt, has not been indicted on the child endangerment charge.
He Didn’t Abuse His Daughter. The State Took Her Anyway.
What does it mean to be a parent? One man hopes his case will change how a decades-old New York law treats unwed fathers.
For the first five years of his daughter Amanda’s life, Ping N., a restaurant manager in Manhattan, lived with his little girl and her mother. He tucked her into bed at night and enjoyed spoiling her with her favorite snacks, like fish balls, egg tarts and ramen noodles.
But when child welfare officials found that Amanda’s mother had inflicted excessive corporal punishment on her in 2013, they removed the girl from the home. Even though court records show that Ping had never committed abuse and was not present when it took place, a judge later decided that he would lose his daughter, too. Ping could not have custody or any say in her life anymore.
Lawyers for Ping, an immigrant from China whose surname is being withheld to protect the identity of his children, are now appealing that decision in what they hope will be a test case that changes how the decades-old law treats unwed fathers.
In New York and 11 other states, if a mother is accused of abuse or neglect but the father is not, and he is not married to her, he must prove that he is a parent in his own right — otherwise he will not have a say in whether the child is put up for adoption. In most of those states, including New York, proof means paying child support — not to the mother but to the government agency that has taken the child.
“This is just blatant discrimination based on stale gender stereotypes — that the only way to be a father is to have a wedding ceremony or else to be a kind of rote financial provider,” said Martin Guggenheim, a law professor at New York University who studies family law and children’s rights.
Defenders of the New York law, which dates to 1980, say it helps children who have been languishing in foster care to get a permanent home sooner by preventing unmarried fathers who do not support their children from using the courts to delay or stop an adoption.
If those fathers had full rights, “we would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he abandoned the child … which can take years,” said Ira L. Eras, a New York lawyer who has mostly represented foster care agencies for three decades.
A Family Court judge in Manhattan ended Ping’s parental rights last year, paving the way for Amanda’s adoption by another family. The judge cited Ping’s status as an unwed father at the time of his daughter’s birth and his failure to pay child support to Catholic Guardian Services, the foster care agency that the city’s child welfare arm, the Administration for Children’s Services, had hired to take custody of the girl.
Ping’s appeal, which was submitted in February and will be argued this fall by lawyers with the Family Defense Clinic at New York University School of Law, contended that he was financially supporting his daughter by giving her clothes, toys, food, gift cards and money, as well as by paying for outings and meals they had together. Ping said he was never told that he also owed child support to the government and had never received a bill.
His lawyers added that there was no apparent way for fathers to pay child support to New York foster care agencies, a claim echoed by other lawyers in similar cases.
A spokeswoman for the Administration for Children’s Services, Chanel Caraway, and the executive director of Catholic Guardian Services, Craig Longley, both said they could not comment on a specific case. Ms. Caraway also declined to comment on whether the agency had ever tried to get fathers to pay child support in these situations.
The state does not track how often the law is given as the reason for ending a father’s parental rights. But a review of Family Court decisions and interviews with foster care lawyers suggests it is routinely cited in those cases.
Last week, David Dunbar, a 43-year-old overnight grocery store manager from the South Bronx, narrowly missed becoming one of them.
After the mother of Mr. Dunbar’s daughter developed severe mental illness in 2014, the children’s services agency deemed her to be an unfit parent and placed the girl, Destiny, then 10, in foster care. In order for her to be adopted, the agency had to show that Mr. Dunbar was also not a fit parent.
Although court records show that Mr. Dunbar consistently visited Destiny, took parenting classes and passed drug tests, the foster care agency, St. Dominic’s Family Services, argued that his rights should be ended in part because he failed to communicate regularly with officials about his plans for his daughter.
As the years went on, the agency began citing the state’s decades-old law as an alternate reason for ending Mr. Dunbar’s rights, court records show. But at a hearing in Manhattan on Sept. 18, the agency dropped its petition, largely because Destiny, now 16, had repeatedly stated to the court that she wanted to be with her father.
“I loved my daughter’s mother,” Mr. Dunbar said. “I wish I could’ve married her. I wish we could have lived a wonderful life together. But we didn’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not a dad.”
Diane Aquino, the chief operating officer of St. Dominic’s Family Services, said that she could not comment on an individual case but that the agency would not try to end a father’s rights if he were “actively planning for his child.”
“Five years in foster care indicates a father who is only intermittently planning,” Dr. Aquino said.
A half-century ago, unwed fathers had even fewer rights. But a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1972 redefined fatherhood, to an extent.
In that case, the justices found that a state could not deny an unwed father his parental rights without demonstrating that he was unfit. Over the next decade, legislators in New York and at least nine other states decided that the fitness of these unmarried fathers would be judged by whether they paid child support and maintained some relationship with the child.
When those laws were passed, many policymakers had a particular scenario in mind: a single mother who wanted to give up her child for adoption. Their goal was to prevent an absentee father from thwarting the mother’s decision without having paid child support.
But they did not take into account adoptions that occurred after a government agency had taken a child from a mother because of abuse or neglect. In order to satisfy the law, the unwed father would technically have to send payments to the government.
In New York, lawyers for fathers said that making payments to foster care agencies was not even possible. The agencies do not try to collect the money, they said, and fathers do not know where or to whom to send it.
“I’ve tried to imagine ways of doing it — having my clients get child support orders against themselves, which they can then pay, or offer to pay the agency in cash every time they can, just so it’s in the record that they tried,” said Yusuf El Ashmawy, a lawyer who represents Mr. Dunbar and other fathers. “It’s mind-bending.”
Since its passage nearly four decades ago, New York’s law has not been updated, even as the culture and the courts have embraced more expansive views of what makes a family . The state’s highest court struck down an earlier provision requiring unwed fathers to be living with their child’s mother in order to have a say in an adoption, but it has not directly ruled on other aspects of the statute.
Ping’s lawyers hope his argument will sway the court.
His daughter Amanda, now 11, was adopted by a white family with whom she has bonded. She lost her ability to communicate with Ping in Mandarin; he does not speak English. Ping eventually married Amanda’s mother, and they had a son, Owen, now 6. Ping’s wife has since died, and he is raising his son on his own.